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Crime & Courts

Maryland man suspected in woman's disappearance in Aruba sues to collect on $3.5M travel insurance policy

  • ArubaMissing.jpg

    Nov. 30, 2011: Gary Giordano, center, a Maryland businessman who had been jailed in Aruba on suspicion of involvement in the presumed death of his traveling companion, walks through Miami International Airport in Miami with attorney Jose Baez. (AP)

  • robyn_gardner_missing_ad

    This missing person flyer released by the FBI requests information on Robyn Gardner, an American who went missing after she traveled to Aruba with Gary Giordano on July 31, 2011. He reported her missing two days later, saying she disappeared while the two were snorkeling. (AP/FBI)

A Maryland man who was suspected in the presumed death of his traveling companion in Aruba is suing to collect on a travel insurance policy issued in the woman's name.

Gary Giordano says in a lawsuit that AMEX Assurance Company is required to pay him $3.5 million under the terms of a policy purchased before last summer's trip. He says in the suit that his companion, Robyn Gardner, is presumed dead following her Aug. 2 disappearance and that the insurance company "has a duty to pay the full death benefit" to him.

Giordano was held for months in an Aruban jail on suspicion of being involved in Gardner's disappearance, and the insurance policy's existence caught the attention of investigators and prosecutors. But an Aruban judge ordered him released in November, saying prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to continue holding him.

Giordano, who has since returned home to Gaithersburg, Md., has denied wrongdoing and says Gardner was swept out to sea as the two snorkeled off the southern tip of Aruba. Her friends and family have expressed doubt about that explanation, saying they thought it was unlikely that she would have gone snorkeling in the first place.

Giordano says in the lawsuit that Gardner was covered under a July 27 policy that afforded $3.5 million in benefits in the event of accidental death or dismemberment. He says he is the named beneficiary under the policy but that the insurance company has refused his demands to pay.

Giordano told The Associated Press that the lawsuit speaks for itself and declined further comment. The suit was filed Thursday in Cook County, Ill., where AMEX Assurance is based.

American Express Co. spokeswoman Gail Wasserman declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but she said policyholders generally have to wait one year before filing a claim in instances in which a person is presumed dead but a body has not been located.

"When somebody is trying to collect a policy of this type and the insured person is missing, there is a 365-day period to file a claim," she said. "We would have not accepted a claim before the 365th day because that's the parameter of the policy."

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